Olbermann named O'Reilly "Worst Person" for misrepresenting poll on gay rights group endorsements

››› ››› MATTHEW BIEDLINGMAIER

On Countdown, Keith Olbermann named Bill O'Reilly the "winner" in his nightly "Worst Person in the World" segment for falsely asserting, as Media Matters for America documented, that a poll by "Pew Research or something like that" "says that most Americans won't vote for you if you get an endorsement by a gay rights group."

On the August 16 edition of MSNBC's Countdown, host Keith Olbermann named Fox News host Bill O'Reilly the "winner" in his nightly "Worst Person in the World" segment for asserting on the August 13 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor that "a new poll" -- which O'Reilly said was issued by "Pew Research or something like that" -- "says that most Americans won't vote for you if you get an endorsement by a gay rights group," as Media Matters for America documented. In fact, a Media Matters search turned up no Pew Research Center poll on the topic, nor any poll asking a nationwide sample whether respondents would be more or less likely to vote for a candidate endorsed by a gay rights organization. However, as the News Hounds blog noted in response to O'Reilly's claim, an August 6-8 Quinnipiac poll of voters in Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania found that a majority of voters in each state responded that support for a presidential candidate by "gay rights groups" "doesn't ... make a difference" in their level of support. Further, the poll found that less than 35 percent of respondents in each state said that the endorsement of a gay rights group would make them "less likely" to vote for a presidential candidate.

During the show, Olbermann cited the results of the Quinnipiac poll and added: "So when you said, 'A new poll says most Americans won't vote for you if you get an endorsement by a gay rights group,' but the poll actually shows that less than one-third feel that way, is it the truth that you hate, Bill, or just the math? And Pew, Quinnipiac, what's the diff?"

As Media Matters also documented, during the August 15 edition of his show, O'Reilly read an email from Cindi Creager of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) that criticized him for "erroneously report[ing] that a poll found most Americans would not vote for a presidential candidate endorsed by a gay rights organization." However, while O'Reilly noted that the poll was taken "in a few states," not nationally as he had earlier suggested, he did not acknowledge that his original assertion that the result applied to a "majority" of respondents was false. Rather, he simply cited the Quinnipiac poll results from Florida -- which found that 28 percent of respondents would be "less likely" to support a candidate endorsed by a gay rights group, while 60 percent said it "would make no difference," and 10 percent said it would make them "more likely" to support such a candidate -- and added, "That's what I was referring to."

Olbermann also named O'Reilly the "runner-up" in his August 16 "Worst Person" segment for "[s]till fighting the website Daily Kos long after it won," in Olbermann's words. Olbermann was referring to the August 14 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, during which O'Reilly read from a posting he said was "found" on the "hateful website" Daily Kos, which stated: "If Jews love the US so much- how come their #'s in the military are dismal? Instead of selling one's soul to be diamond brokers, investment bankers..." After reading the posting, O'Reilly asserted: "Doesn't get much more anti-Semitic than that. Does it?" However, while O'Reilly attributed the posting to Daily Kos member "dhonig" by showing his name underneath the quote, "dhonig" did not actually make the comment in question. Rather, in a February 13 post, "dhonig" criticized the comment, which was posted on July 17, 2006, by another Daily Kos user, "PEARSAYS." Indeed, after reprinting the comment, "dhonig" wrote: "Was there some kind of contest to see how many stereotypes could fit in one paragraph." In an August 15 post on the blog My Left Wing titled, "Bill O'Reilly Defamed Me," "dhonig" explained the situation in detail, noting that the comment attributed to him by O'Reilly "was one of the hateful quotes I was criticizing."

As Media Matters has documented (here, here, here, here, here, and here), Olbermann frequently mentions O'Reilly in his "Worst Person" segment.

From the August 16 edition of MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann:

OLBERMANN: Our runner-up, Bill-O, still fighting the website Daily Kos long after it won. And he's bought himself some possible legal trouble. To suggest that the site is anti-Semitic, he read a posting and attributed it to a "dhonig." The snippet was awful, quoting, "If Jews love the U.S. so much, how come their numbers in the U.S. military are so dismal? Instead of selling one's soul to be diamond brokers, investment bankers."

Problem is, Mr. Honig did not write that. He was quoting that posting by an anti-Semite who was promptly thrown out of the website. Mr. Honig was trying to help the self-policing, and what he wrote was, quote, "Was there some kind of contest to see how many stereotypes could fit in one paragraph?"

And here's your problem, Billy. Mr. Honig's an attorney, licensed in three states and before the Supreme Court, and he says you've defamed him. Also, there's that little ethical nightmare headline, "Bill O'Reilly attacks critic of anti-Semitism."

And our winner -- oh, he hasn't had a twofer in a while. Nobody knows that better than he does. Well, he's done it again, making stuff up. "Now, a new poll says that most Americans won't vote for you if you get an endorsement by a gay rights group. What is that poll? Pew Research or something like that? But anyway."

Oops again. The Pew Research Center has taken no such poll. We're thinking Orally is referring to a Quinnipiac poll from a week ago of voters in Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Not a national poll, just in Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Its Question 18 reads, "If a presidential candidate is supported by gay rights groups, does that make you more likely to vote for that candidate, less likely to vote for that candidate, or doesn't it make a difference?"

The combined response in those three states -- 30 percent said it made them less likely to vote for the candidate; 10 percent said it made them more likely to vote for the candidate; 58 percent said it made no difference.

So when you said, "A new poll says most Americans won't vote for you if you get an endorsement by a gay rights group," but the poll actually shows that less than one-third feel that way, is it the truth that you hate, Bill, or just the math? And Pew, Quinnipiac, what's the diff? Peabody, Polk. Loofah, falafel. Whatever. Bill Orally, today's "Worst Person in the World."

Posted In
Diversity & Discrimination, LGBT
Network/Outlet
MSNBC
Person
Keith Olbermann
Show/Publication
Countdown with Keith Olbermann
Stories/Interests
Attacks on Progressives, Propaganda/Noise Machine, Polling, 2008 Elections
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